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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Should MLB players and social media mix?

By definition, commenting on blogs and message boards means comfortable anonymity for the poster. Some take the freedom too far, overreacting and ridiculing, perhaps in part to boost their own low self-esteem.

With the emergence of popular social media venues such as Facebook and Twitter, the player and fan can interact directly. The outcomes aren’t always pretty.

During the off-season, when St. Louis Cardinals closer Jason Motte created and publicized his Twitter presence, I winced. Every player has bad days, but there is no single position that matches the volatility of closing, with its immediate highs and lows.

It is one thing to interact with fans when there are no games, but even the best closers are going to blow saves. When the lows come, they will be fast, hard and painful.

At those points in time, interaction between the angry fan and the athlete would best be insulated. Twitter has no such buffer, however.

In all fairness, after Monday’s surprising loss in Chicago absorbed by Motte, the vast majority of fans that expressed opinions were supportive of him, sending tweets of encouragement. After all, the closer has built up considerable goodwill given his and his team’s 2011 finish.

Following the loss, Motte made a single, somewhat generic, tweet:

“Whatever it is…it’s not outside Gods control. He may not get you out but He’ll get you through. #blessed”

The best closers are known for being able to quickly erase the result of the previous game. Yet the dozens of fan comments throughout the day on Tuesday encouraging Motte prolonged the memory of Monday’s missed opportunity.

Of course, Motte could decide to just stay away from social media until the storm passes. But then why use it in the first place? To deploy only when times are good?

Another blown save or two in the next week and the current supportive climate would likely change. Then what?

Former Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin once had a Twitter account, too. He had regular conversations with the masses, but after some bumps in the road, the account was canceled. Fan discord wasn’t directly the explanation offered, but my suspicion was that it contributed.

Motte certainly isn’t the first to muff a save opportunity. Just the other day, Minnesota closer Matt Capps was repeatedly insulted by a “fan” on Twitter after blowing a save. Twins blogger “Jesse” wrote about it here, rightly pointing out the inappropriateness and cowardice of the “fan” in making the criticism personal while complimenting the player for his professionalism.

I certainly agree with that assessment, but I also have to wonder about creating the environment in the first place. How wise is it for athletes to be that accessible?

Let’s face it; no matter how much we sermonize, those who need the lessons the most will not heed them. The lunatic fringe will remain. The only question is at what frequency and intensity they will surface. So, why enable them?

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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82 Responses to “Should MLB players and social media mix?”

  1. crdswmn says:

    I hope Tyler Greene never goes on Twitter for just this reason. Last night was the worst I have ever seen with regard to negative fan reaction on Twitter. Myself and a couple of other people tried to calm the masses, and got attacked for their troubles. One fan in particularly angrily tweeted me that I was trying to stop fans from “holding players accountable”. Like the manager and the team can’t do that? And just HOW does name calling make them play better?

    The fact is that Twitter gives the fan so inclined the freedom to be hateful and ugly ad hominem. It is not about holding anyone accountable it is about expressing the worst of your nature without fear of consequences. We all have darker angels but proper social behavior dictates that we suppress them as much as possible. Hiding our identity on the internet takes away the social stigma of bad behavior.

    I agree Brian, players must think very carefully before they commit themselves to this medium. I am not surprised that most choose to stay away.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Those masses don’t want to be calmed. It’s like instant talk radio – without having to sit on hold.

    • friendmouse says:

      crdswmn, I see we’re approaching the “1 year anniversary” of your post as a “Guest Writer” on this blog. The topic was Albert, his slow start (in ’11), his pending contract situation, the Cardinals fast start in spite of Albert’s mortality, et al. And you did a nice job writing.

      It is fun to go back with perfect 20-20 hindsight and reminisce as to what the dynamics were “back in the day.” My, how time changes things, and yet certain things seem to remain unchanged, basically. While on the surface it may sound twisted and totally ridiculous, I must say that in some ways, I feel sorry for Albert. Yeah, that does nearly make me laugh at myself. Yet, if he could “twitch his nose” and get his wishes granted, I’m thinking he longs for those days as a Cardinal. For his own sake (something most folks could care less about), I hope he soon goes on a “tear” of historic proportions…something like hitting 30 homeruns in May, or driving in 50 runs in 30 games, or seeing his batting average climb to near .500 by the AS break. It’s all good…so long as we win the World Series again this year!

  2. blingboy says:

    Craig has not played in the field yet for Palm Beach, DH-ing again yesterday (Ofer). Now they go on the road so I guess he’ll be taking some bus rides. Somehow, his return doesn’t seem as imminent to me as some suggest. Is he likely to go to Memphis for a few games once he can actually play?

    I notice on the matrix quite a few players hanging around the complex on EST with no real job. Will they help fill out short season rosters along with this summers draftees? Are they last year’s short season guys who didn’t get promoted? A few from last year’s DSL squad?

  3. Kansasbirdman says:

    Agree that trolls can be a problem on twitter and the net.

    There are also good storys to come out of this type of player-fan interaction like the one I posted awhile back about the Rockies pitcher tweeting he needed a throwing partner and one lucky fan responding and getting the memory of a lifetime.

  4. Brian Walton says:

    I received an interesting email. It questioned my consistency. On one hand, I suggest players may not want to be on Twitter, while I also publicize their ids.

    Fair question, so I thought I’d share my reply here.

    My blog post today addresses a decision to be made by a player regarding if he uses Twitter and how. Twitter ids are public information, available to anyone. If the player decides to establish this presence, by definition, he wants people to follow him. Otherwise, the player would choose to protect his tweets and/or communicate with selected people via private forms such as email, text or phone. These decisions are on the player.

    Readers have to decide for themselves if they follow players. But remember that there is a difference between following them to read their comments and engaging them directly. Then of course, there is the manner in which any engagement occurs. That is clearly on the fan.

    Hope that clarifies.

  5. crdswmn says:

    Anyone want to venture a guess as to what is ailing the offense?

    • Kansasbirdman says:

      Talk of the talking heads on FX Sports Midwest (Al, Rick, Dan) mentioned the cold weather, but they kept also saying they weren’t giving an excuse.

      What is not good, clearly alarming, is being 4 for 39 when having RISP (although having 39 times of RISP is good I think).

      No one seems to be very clutch at this point. Matheny talked about practicing “situational hitting” but I don’t know how they do that. Don’t know if they will play today, but I would think being back in St. Louis with some warmer weather will hopefully help. They spent most of spring in tropical locales.

      • crdswmn says:

        I consider the weather as a factor, but not the sole reason. Unfortunately, the weather forecast for this weekend is more like what they have seen on the road trip.

    • blingboy says:

      I don’t have to guess, I know. Here are last year’s top ten RBI producers and their status now:

      1. Anaheim
      2. DL
      3. Mendoza line slump
      4.hitting 6th
      5. hitting 5th
      6. San Fran
      7. Toronto
      8. DL
      9. just back from DL
      10. Seperated shoulder that’s not seperated anymore but not playing.

      • crdswmn says:

        1. 0-19 and hitting .222
        2, Hasn’t hit a HR yet this year.
        3. That doesn’t answer the question
        4. Where do you want him to hit?
        5. Where do you want him to hit?
        6. You’ve got to be kidding me.
        7. Like you miss him.
        8. Memphis is just a stone’s throw away
        9. No comment
        10. Let me see you go splat with the CF wall.

        • Kansasbirdman says:

          Okay, without looking up the list I am going to try to guess the players from the comments:

          1. Don’t know who it might be. Anaheim has a team?
          2. Berkman
          3. Holliday
          4. Yadi
          5. Freeze
          6. Theriot
          7. Colby
          8. Craig
          9. Schumaker
          10. Jay
          Did I get them right?
          We do have some additions from last year though. Beltran should heat up. (k.o.w.)

        • Kansasbirdman says:

          crdswmn- are your first three comments re: 1. Holliday 2. Schmalbert and 3. Berkman?
          I am guessing from BB’s comments that the top three were (if he didn’t transpose the spots) 1. Scmalbert 2. Berkman and 3. Holliday

          • crdswmn says:

            No. 1. Schmalbert 2. Berkman. 3. Holliday.

            • Kansasbirdman says:

              Guess I didn’t realize AP was 0-19 and batting .222. With all the hoopla that he doesn’t have a HR yet didn’t realize Berkman didn’t either, but Berkman still seems to be hitting well.
              I guess “seemed to be” hitting well is more appropriate comment.

              • crdswmn says:

                Berkman is hitting .342, just no dingers yet.

                It has been reported on ESPN that Albert is starting to look desperate. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a major meltdown with the media if he doesn’t hit soon.

                • Kansasbirdman says:

                  Lots of gloom and doom articles out there. Some mention his lack of unintentional walks, some his declining numbers going into last season, and supposed incerease in swings, esp. at balls outside the zone. With the Angels as a whole not doing so well and Texas running away with the division (this is still really early) Angels’ fans are beside themselves and blaming the posterboy.

        • blingboy says:


          1. 0-21, .216 (day game in progress).
          3. .205, but at half the price.

          • blingboy says:

            Update. Went 1-4, single, thrown out trying for 2nd.

            • crdswmn says:

              Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end…………

              • Kansasbirdman says:

                The incredible part is that Hunter singled after and Trumbo doubled after that (thus the player not to be named would have scored had he not tried to stretch the single) and get this Angels lost by one run.

                Maybe when Mike Trout comes up from AAA (he is tearing it up) and they can’t put Trumbo in the outfield (Soscia doesn’t seem to like him much at third) we can send a reliever to the Angels for Trumbo and have our first baseman for next year if Lance retires or goes to DH for the Stros.

                • Kansasbirdman says:

                  Okay, wishfull thinking I know. They aren’t going to give up thier best hitter. But they do need a better ‘pen.

                • Brian Walton says:

                  The Cards need 2B help more than 1B, IMO.

                  • Kansasbirdman says:

                    What will be Craig’s position when he returns? I remember speculation last year he could be our Chase Utley power-hitting 2b.

                    I know he backs up Holliday in LF and can play RF (how he hurt his knee in Houston).

                    Does he have much experience at corner or middle infield?

                    • crdswmn says:

                      Craig isn’t a second baseman.

                      He can play either corner OF position. Don’t care for him in CF.

                      Ultimately, he is a 1B, but we seem to have a surplus of those.

  6. Kansasbirdman says:

    Gametrax showing 5-1 victory today for Redbirds.

  7. Brian Walton says:

    I didn’t see the post-game show, but I understand Ricky Horton ranted about impolite tweeters. Did anyone catch it?

  8. Nutlaw says:

    Speaking of message board commenting, I have to say that I appreciate the level of discourse around here lately.

    On another note, I didn’t see the game, but am pleasantly surprised to read that Beltran stole a couple of bases. He has five on the year and at his age, I honestly expect that to be closer to his season long total than his April total. With Allen Craig due back soon, I hope that it means that his legs feel strong enough to man center field!

  9. JumboShrimp says:

    The positives from yesterday’s loss included a good game from Wainwright. We will need him this year. Also Holliday pounded a dinger and we will need him this year too.

    Today, the good story, but not news, was Lynn. Freese is having a super season too.

    LaHair has been bashing the Cards. Second homer off Wainwright.

  10. JumboShrimp says:

    While we miss Chris Carpenter, he could not have pitched better than Lance Lynn, thus far.

  11. blingboy says:

    The rotation has stayed the same since opening day: Lohse, garcia, Wainwright, Lynn, Westbrook. There have been a couple days off, so Mike could have tweeked the order but didn’t. There are a couple more now, including today, so he could tweek it now if he wants.

    Supposing he doesn’t, how would the order be defined? Wainy, Lynn, Jake, Kyle, Jaime? Kyle, Jaime, Wainy, Lynn, Jake? You can’t have Wainy not be the #1, right? So does Mike just keep Lynn as the #2? But you can’t really ditch your #2 when Carp comes back. Especially if he’s the first pitcher in the majors to reach 4-0. So, what is the rotation, exactly? 1 through 5, I mean.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Other than if you want to remove the worst pitcher, #5, for poor performance, and replace him with someone else, what value do these arbitrary designations have?

      For example, Wainwright isn’t #3 in any kind of pecking order. The rotation was set up for him to start the home opener as an honor so he started the third game of the season on the road before then to line up the schedule.

      My point is that it would make more sense to me to simply ask which starter would be removed from the rotation when Carp is ready. Since we don’t know when that is going to be and who else is going to be injured or ineffective at that time, the answer could be very different x weeks in the future than it would be today.

      To play along, however, if Carp was ready today, I suppose I would return Lynn to setting up, until someone else gets hurt. An alternative would be to keep him starting in Memphis, but that would mean not having your best pitchers in StL.

      • Kansasbirdman says:

        Could we use a six-man rotation? How often is that done? Is it bad for starters to go that long between starts? Maybe with more rest starters could go longer in games and not need as many bullpen pitchers? I am guessing one major reason teams don’t have six-person rotation is it cost$ a lot to have 6 starters. But we are already paying them this year.

        • Kansasbirdman says:

          I suppose pitchers would have fewer games and not be able to pad thier stats with wins.

        • blingboy says:

          Real baseball is played using a four man rotation, like it always was when I was growing up. Going to five, coupled with the drastic decline in complete games (somewhat acceptable in the days of the three inning save) is a tragic example of the woosification of baseball. A six man rotation would be for little girls chasing butterflies around out in the outfield. Not to mention the need to go to 26 man rosters so managers wouldn’t be having heart attacks due to one less reliever to come in and face one guy.

          Of course, that doesn’t answer the question of what happens when Carp is ready to hold down a rotation spot. Assuming neither injury nor major drop-off in performance by anyone, its a pickle. In my mind, bumping Lynn is absurd. But so would bumping Garcia, Bump a money guy? Har. So what to do?

      • blingboy says:

        Almost always, a team’s rotation will have there best pitcher, then second best, then third best, etc. In order 1 through 5, with #5 getting skipped now and then when days off allow, and 1 through 3 getting most of the post season starts.

        Why 1 through 5 in order of “goodness” throughout the regular season? Not sure really, but it is almost always done that way, so I assume it is for good reason.

        So that is what prompted me to bring it up. Assuming Wainy regains form, even if not yet up to last year’s level, he is unquestionalbly the #1. So wouldn’t tradition (for good reason?) dictate the second best follow him, then the third best, etc.

        So our rotation seems jumbled up. Or is it? Surely Mike doesn’t think Garcia is the #5, so why does he still preceed Wainy.

        I understand the opening day/home opener sequence affected things. But like I said, there have been days off to let Mike set things to rights, and again now, so what gives?

  12. friendmouse says:

    Not that it matters a whit, but if MM is a traditionalist (and I suspect he has those leanings), his 1-5, when all healthy, is: Carp, Waino, Jaime, Lohse, and Westbrook. But we well may never see that sequence this entire year.

  13. blingboy says:

    Craig didn’t play again yesterday for Palm Beach. Maybe he didn’t make the trip, I don’t know. Something just doesn’t seem right.

    Palm Beach pitcher Castillo had a complete game loss. Don’t see that too much anymore.

  14. Kansasbirdman says:

    Brewer’s lineup, though I think Marco Estrada is going to pitch and not Gallardo:









    Gallardo (scratched for Estrada?)

  15. Kansasbirdman says:

    Jake was getting ground balls but they were falling lucky places.

  16. Kansasbirdman says:

    Surprised cdswmn hasn’t brought up that defensive flub by Skip. That was frustrating.

  17. Kansasbirdman says:

    Might as well post the lineup for the Good Guys:










  18. Kansasbirdman says:

    Three groundball outs in a row. That’ll teach the crew to be swinging so aggressively.

  19. Kansasbirdman says:

    Skippy, I just can’t quit you. That triple absolves everything. 🙂

  20. Kansasbirdman says:

    Good hits. May get to Gallardo in the third. 🙂

  21. Kansasbirdman says:

    Nice double Matt Carp! No gloves either. 14 RBIs now, quite impressive. Just needs exposed socks and a stash. 🙂

  22. Kansasbirdman says:

    Shu welcomes relief pitcher McClendon to the game with a first pitch rbi single.

  23. Kansasbirdman says:

    Okay. We can’t keep scoring here or else Jake’s gonna get cold

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